A Matter of Life or Death

I am not exactly killing it as a pet owner.  Most days Max and I barely get by.  He does something bad, I yell, he runs, I chase, I give up, I swear under my breath and walk away.  I question every decision I ever made regarding his adoption. Repeat 1000 times….


I have been close to quitting more days than I will ever admit to the kids. I’m continuously humbled, outwitted, shamed and frustrated.  And I do love him.  It’s a fine line between nuzzling his soft scruffy little cheeks and grabbing his neck fats and uttering a threat for him to meet his maker. I don’t tell anyone the number of nights in the quiet late hours that I carry a warm furry body up to my room for the night.  Its only because he is cold. It hardly counts as him sleeping on the bed, it’s just the very end corner…for the first three minutes.

This morning I needed to take our furry “friend” in for his annual check-up.  I prepared him the same way that I would prepare myself. I skimped on his breakfast, cleaned up his fur, and checked his teeth. The least I could do is present well. As my lovely and wonderful dog- sitter said, “He is overweight and under-trained.”  The latter is an understatement. I’m grateful she still watches him.

Anyhow, I got my buddy and me shined up and head to the vet. I hoped he would behave, is healthy, and that the Dr. thinks I’m doing a good job.   Maybe if I’m lucky I will even get a few tips and words of encouragement; something to sustain me for the journey. After we checked in Max got on the scale(good thing we ate light for breakfast) and then we sat down.  Well, I sat down anyway.  Max sniffed around.

Moments later a woman walked into the vet clutching a small cardboard box. It didn’t have a lid.  All I could see is a piece of blanket. She approached the counter and set the box down, but didn’t let go.  The waiting room was so small I couldn’t help but overhear her address the receptionist,

“Hi, this is the squirrel,” she stated cautiously, and glanced in the direction of my pup.

“Oh, ok.  I have some forms you have to sign.”

The woman took the forms and set them on the counter with one hand.  In her other hand she held the box as it rested on the counter.

I’m thinking, seriously, a squirrel?  Who has a pet squirrel?!?!

The woman behind the desk looked up, clearly uncomfortable,  I don’t understand, but then she began.

“I’m sorry that you aren’t going to be able to keep him.”

The owner looked confused, and asked for clarification.

The employee reiterated, “As you know, we are going to have to put him down.”

The owner appeared shaken, “Can’t you just feed him?”

“I told you over the phone, we can’t care for squirrels.  We don’t have a license to do that.”

As she spoke the creature in the box shuffled.  It caught Max’s attention and he strained on his leash.  If I wasn’t careful there wouldn’t need to be a discussion about the fate of the squirrel. It would be over. Still, I was oddly curious to see the little fellow peek out. I’m wondering what could be wrong with him?

The owner argued, “No, you didn’t explain that to me.”  Clearly upset, she stopped filling out the papers.

“That is what I was trying to tell you, we just can’t do it.  We can deal with the paperwork later, if you want to come back?”

The woman didn’t budge. My eyes must have been bulging out of my head.  I was caught between compassion, confusion, and a morbid curiosity. Tears sprung to my eyes as I considered the loss of a pet.

Then another employee appeared from the back of the office.  She asked if this is Roger the squirrel?

We all nodded yes.  She seemed oddly cheerful,  “Are we boarding him for a week?”  Simultaneously the owner and the other employee answered yes and no, respectively.

It was all a big mix-up.

Apparently Roger has had an appointment for weeks to stay at the vet clinic while his owner travels.  Meanwhile, the first employee had talked to another owner on the phone who is bringing in a wild squirrel for urgent care (i.e. a compassionate end). We all let out sighs of relief in the untangling.  Apologies, explanations, and instructions  were exchanged. Two squirrels and two owners, whose fate almost collided. Roger came within an inch of his life.

In the confusion I pulled Max closer and nuzzled his fuzzy little face.  I stopped and looked him in the eye, mom to beast. We shared a moment. Then he lick-slapped my face and jumped down.

I never saw Roger, he and his owner promptly left the room.  When it was Max’s turn things when just as I suspected. He was healthy, fat, loving and disobedient. I didn’t really care.

Roger’s owner got to keep her pet, I guess I will keep Max too. For today.


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